Whatever happened to stress-free holidays? Those times when you could kick back, put up your feet, and enjoy the season? These days it seems like stress and the holidays are one and the same.
Human beings love tradition, but we are often plagued by habit. You romanticize and do things that, for all intents and purposes, stress you out. You don’t mean to cause yourself harm; you have the best of intentions, but no matter what, you end up stressing yourself out. The holidays manifest this stress to the nth degree.
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Surveys repeatedly show that Americans actually expect to be stressed throughout the holiday season. But you know what? You don’t have to be. Some planning can help you avoid those holiday habits that can wreak havoc and cause unnecessary stress.
Expecting your holidays to go perfectly is simply not realistic. People tend to romanticize the past and try to achieve these images of perfections they’ve instilled in themselves. The truth is that Christmas and the holidays have always been stressful; you just didn’t notice it when you were younger, because you weren’t an adult who had responsibilities!
Forget about holding on to stressful traditions that nobody cares about. You don’t have to remake every treat or meal that’s been in the family for generations. Simply do what’s right and enjoyable for you. Better yet, you can cycle through your family’s traditional recipes from year to year to make meal planning easy every Christmas!
Remember that holidays aren’t about what’s on the table or what people are doing, they’re about being together. If you find yourself stressing because your holiday isn’t the perfect image you saw on a Christmas card, don’t stress about it! Be thankful you’re with your loved ones and throw out any idea of perfection!
Last year, for example, my family was without power for the four days we were together over Christmas. The food spoiled, we were cold, and none of our past traditions went according to plan. But guess what: everyone there said it was the best Christmas they can remember!
Stressing About Spending
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No matter your income level or current situation, you probably spend more money than normal over the holidays. It’s nearly unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore setting a budget. Create a list of all the people who you want to buy a gift for—or spend money on—and stick to it. Remember that you don’t need to spread yourself too thin to spread holiday cheer, and gifts aren’t overly important to most people.
Make a small list of people for whom you’d like to buy a gift and simply provide holiday wishes to the people who don’t make the cut. If you feel guilty about cutting some people off the list, consider baking them some cookies or creating a homemade gift with crafting supplies you have around your home.
You also don’t have to buy everything that’s on a loved one’s list. It can be very stressful trying to please somebody you care about, but stressors like finding the perfect gift and making all their dreams come true aren’t worth the hassle. Stick to what you can afford and you’ll breathe a little easier this season—and into the New Year, when the credit card bills come in! The old adage still rings true today: it’s the thought that counts.
The holidays are tiring and the lack of sleep most of us experience around Christmas can only add to the stress. Getting gifts wrapped, jumping from party to party, and spending late nights scouring the malls can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. When you’re low on sleep, however, you’re likely high on stress. You’re undoubtedly going to have a few late nights, but try to limit them.
Go easy on the alcohol if you’re attending a party so you’re not slow, groggy, or even more tired the next day. You can also take advantage of online shopping and gift-wrapping options to save yourself the stress of heading to the mall and time spent wrapping each and every gift!
Sleep deprivation is a major cause of stress, so make sure you get more than a couple winks of sleep during the holidays. Make a schedule and do your best to keep to it!
The holidays can be everything you want and more if you plan them properly and recognize that many of our holiday habits are simply just stress creators. Remember that stress doesn’t have to ruin your holiday. Change your focus and remember what this time of year is all about: friends, family, and fun!
Sources for Today’s Article:
American Psychological Association, “Money Issues Leading Cause of Holiday Stress for Americans,” APA web site, December 3, 2004; http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2004/12/holiday-stress.aspx, last accessed November 19, 2014.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, “Holiday Stress,” APA web site, December 12 2006; http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf, last accessed November 19, 2014.
Marks, T., “Consumer Reports’ holiday-humbling index reveals top seasonal gripes,” Consumer Reports web site, December 20, 2013; http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/12/consumer-reports-holiday-humbug-index/index.htm, last accessed November 19, 2014.